Catharism was a Christian dualist or Gnostic movement between the 12th and 14th centuries which thrived in Southern Europe, particularly in northern Italy and southern France. Followers were described as Cathars and referred to themselves as Good Christians; in modern times, they are mainly remembered for a prolonged period of mutual conflict and religious persecution – sometimes regarded as genocide – by the Catholic Church which deemed Catharism a heretical sect.
Catharism emerged in Western Europe in the Languedoc region of southern France in the 11th century. Adherents were sometimes referred to as Albigensians, after the French city Albi where the movement first took hold. Catharism was initially taught by ascetic leaders who set few guidelines, leading some Catharist practices and beliefs to vary by region and over time. The movement was greatly influenced by the Bogomils of the First Bulgarian Empire, and may have originated in the Byzantine Empire, namel